Published: May 10, 2019
Few skills are as essential for a child’s development and success as literacy. Learning to read and write is one of the foundational building blocks of the modern education system, and students who fall behind in literacy are almost guaranteed to fall behind in most of their other subjects as well. After all, without reading and writing skills, how can children master subjects like history, geography, and social studies, which require strong reading comprehension and the ability to communicate one’s thoughts through writing?
While most parents would consider literacy to be one of the most essential aspects of a primary school education, however, evidence shows that in Canada, literacy is declining.
In 2017, the OECD international surveys of adult skills reported that despite having one of the largest working-age populations with tertiary education in the world, Canada’s literacy rate is dropping. This decline in practical reading and writing abilities among Canadians is a major concern, and speaks to a disconnection between levels of formal education and actual mastery of basic skills.
If you are worried about declining literacy rates and want to ensure that your child has the tools they need to become competent readers and writers, Prep Academy Tutors is here for you — we have extensive experience teaching a wide range of subjects, and will be happy to connect you with a tutor who can meet your child where they are and help them meet their learning objectives.
The good news is that, while learning to read and write is an area that many children struggle with, with these three tips for improving literacy skills and the help of a skilled tutor, it is one that is well within reach of everyone.
1. Ground Literacy in Everyday Tasks
Learning to read and write effectively involves developing a lot of distinct skills, and it is common for educators in the early stages to focus on discrete building blocks of literacy like phonics and the alphabet.
But this focus on formal aspects of language acquisition should be supplemented with exposure to the practical dimension of language-use. Literacy is about more than just knowledge: it is about a capacity to accomplish language-related tasks, and this requires an approach that roots reading and writing in everyday experiences.
One of the things you can do to help your child improve their literacy skills at home is by integrating practical reading and writing skills into the daily routine. For example, having younger children help with practical tasks like making shopping lists and reading recipe directions helps children engage with reading and writing in a way that is directly related to the world around them, and helps to instil a sense of the value of literacy.
2. Provide Personalized Help
As with any skill, on the path the literacy children are likely to meet regular plateaus. In situations like this, it can be important for them to have access to personalized, one-on-one help to overcome the obstacles they are facing. Unfortunately, this kind of individual attention is often not available in the classroom, which is why children may need extra help at home.
This can be difficult to do as a parent, and one reason you might want to find a tutor near you is because a tutor can provide the kind of targeted literacy support children who are struggling to get to the next level in their reading and writing.
3. Make Reading a Part of Life
Like all skills, literacy is something that can only be developed through practice. If a child is struggling with reading comprehension, the most effective way to help them improve is by encouraging them to read more. Unfortunately, according to the latest statistics from First Book Canada, an organization that works with educators and other partners to remove barriers to learning by creating equal access to education for children in need, a staggering twenty-five percent of Canadian households don’t have a single book.
This means that at least one in every four children are trying to develop reading and writing skills without having the basic tool needed to do so — books. And even parents who do read often struggle to pass the habit on to their children.
With so many entertainment options available, from Netflix shows to YouTube to video games to sports and other extracurricular activities, it can be hard to convince children that reading can be an equally rewarding activity, especially if they find reading difficult and uninteresting.
While there are no sure-fire ways to get kids to start reading more, here are a few things parents can do to help encourage children to make reading a regular activity:
Read to Your Child
One of the best ways to normalize reading when your children are young is by reading to them. This will not only help get them interested in stories, but it will also help establish reading as a worthwhile activity.
Follow their Interests
What a child is reading is less important than the fact that they are reading, so let your child follow their interests when picking reading materials. For example, if they are interested in sports, a biography of an athlete that is appropriate for their reading level may be a good way to get them engaged.
Go to the Library
If your child doesn’t seem interested in any of the reading materials you have recommended, taking them to a library and telling them to pick out five books is a creative way to delegate the exploration to them.
Get them Interested in a Series or Author
plenty of non-readers have been turned on to literature because they fell in love with Harry Potter or The Hunger Games. If your children like these films, use that as a springboard to get them interested in the books.
Ask their Teacher or Tutor for Tips
Teachers and tutors have a lot of experience helping children learn, so asking for their advice on what you can do to encourage literacy in the home is always a good idea.
Reading and writing are skills that most children will struggle with at one point or another. Indeed, many people will continue to develop as readers and writers throughout their lives, adding new words to their vocabularies and becoming more proficient written communicators.
The most important thing to instil young learners with is an appreciation for the importance of the written word, and the habit of reading for information and pleasure. It might not be possible to turn your child into a voracious reader overnight, but by grounding literacy in everyday tasks, providing personalized help, and encouraging a love of reading to take root, you can prepare your child for a life of continuous learning.